The Live the Life South Florida team had the blessing of attending the National Alliance for Marriage & Relationship Education conference in Utah a few weeks ago.
Most of us went a few days early to take in some sights. Unbeknownst to most of you, I have a sense of adventure, so when someone offers that opportunity, I’m usually game! My daughter Amanda always looks for fun and the once-in-a-lifetime activity when traveling, so she researched and said, “We have to go to Sundance and hike to Stewart Falls.” My only question was how difficult it was, and her answer was “easy to moderate,” so off we went.
I learned many things, but as is typical, we all have different perspectives and definitions. “Easy to moderate” doesn’t mean the same to me as the park services or seasoned hikers. Arriving at the entrance I was struck by the beauty and majesty of the mountains, the trees, the breeze, and the age and stage of the hikers. Some small children, even a mother was carrying a baby, there were grandparents and everything in between. I thought everyone was making this hike, so it couldn’t be too complicated or lengthy. So off we went with a tiny bottle of water!
The first 90 minutes went well; a few challenges but nothing I couldn’t overcome. I was beginning to realize that a hike in the mountains should always include the word “climb.” Two hours in I was out of the water, the terrain was more complex, and I had to hold on to tree limbs and often Amanda’s hand to “climb” up and over what I’d call boulders, not to mention that the trail was usually 18 inches wide, and the fall would be several thousand feet (I’m afraid of heights).
So, as exhaustion set in, I shamelessly sat down in the middle of the trail about every 100 steps. Sitting there, I think this is a lot like marriage. We start with the excitement and wonder of the relationship. We’re swept away by the beauty of the other person inside and out and our future together. We have different perspectives of what the marriage will be like, different definitions of what’s easy and hard, and we don’t consider that majesty and beauty usually involve a climb and not just a hike. And there are moments that we don’t want to keep going. Forget the waterfall. Surely, there’s a helicopter that can rescue me and fly me away. How am I going to end this? I want a divorce.
As I sat, people that started up the same time I did were coming down, but children were crying, and adults were commenting that this wasn’t an easy hike, but they made it to the top and have the pictures to prove it. The people that seemed to maintain the enthusiasm had water, an apple and a walking stick. They were so prepared they could share their water and the apple with me, which was complete refreshment. I made it to the top, albeit it took me longer, but I made it.
We all need water, food, and a walking stick to make the hike and climb of marriage. We need to be prepared with relationship and pre-marital education. We need to invest time to explore and define our perspectives and expectations. We need to set goals and consider timelines and standards. Most of all, we need a walking stick. I will never “hike and climb” again without a walking stick.
So, what are the walking sticks of marriage?
- We need to rely on Jesus to help us stay the course.
- You need the water of the Word for refreshment.
- Just as we need the apple for nourishment, we need to study and FEAST on the Word, not just casually graze.
- We need to take time from the exhaustion of the hustle and bustle of life and sit, relax, on the journey, and give our spouse your undivided attention.
- We must set aside time for marriage and family education workshops and retreats.
- We need friends who are supportive of your marriage. People who will extend their hand of friendship to lift you when the pathway gets difficult.
- We must be willing to share our apples and water with others as they will be challenged.
Again, God used creation to reveal Jesus to us. The wood of the cross was the instrument God used to redeem and save us from spiritual death, and the wood of the walking stick God uses to go with us on our journey to heaven.
Since my return home, I look back on my adventure, and I’m glad I’d stayed the course. Like marriage, I could have given up and missed the majesty and beauty of God’s creation and His plan for a beautiful and deeply satisfying marriage.
Live the Life South Florida exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education, beginning in middle school through senior adults. We are educators, coaches, and pastoral counselors. If you’re looking for a clinical counselor or therapist, we are blessed to have many in the South Florida community. We’d be honored to provide you a list of highly qualified and reputable individuals. Visit livethelifesoflo.org